Hugs achieved: x2
“People think it’s too highbrow…but it’s not” says Melissa McGlensey (Mel) as she discusses the Soothplayers production ‘Completely Improvised Shakespeare’. “They don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to enjoy Soothplayers” either. Whether you you’re a Shakespeare fan or not, Mel attests there is an element you will like, “at the end of the day, it’s good improv”! Mel and Matthew Jackson (Matt) are also both performers in D.A.’s ‘Completely Improvised Potter’, a show the tells a new Harry Potter story each night. “I would do Improvised Potter even if there weren’t the shows…we get uniforms… we get houses… you get to cast spells”, says Matt. If you are aware of the “tropes” and “the story archetypes” of Shakespeare or the “universe” of Harry Potter, each show offers an immersive world in which to see improv.
It appears the performers in both productions have a wide range of backgrounds and experience. The Slytherin Matt, began his comedy career in the United Kingdom, first in stand-up then improv. After seeing a quality improv show, Matt describes “seeing the improvisers having so much fun” and thinking “I want to be doing that”. Matt studied his craft in London before moving to Australia less than a year ago to get amongst the Melbourne scene. “Completely Improvised Potter is one of the best things I have worked on creatively”! The loyal Ravenclaw Mel, is originally from California but “lived in New York for several years doing improv and stand-up”. Mel has worked with most of the improv centres in Melbourne in her year here but is about to leave for Chicago to study and continue her improv journey.
There are a vast range of skills amongst the two productions, including trained actors, internationally trained improvisers and even an academic studying Shakespeare, whose “language is really beautiful”, says Mel. Both Mel and Matt note the importance of a good director as well as training in improv. Their training focuses on certain skill sets like “how to listen, how to recognise patterns, how to serve your scene and the narrative as a whole”. They praise director Andrew Strano for his efforts, particularly for his guidance in rehearsals, as they hone their practiced skills.
“The stakes are so much higher… that’s what I love about improv, you’re taking bigger risks but you have the potential for massive rewards”, says Mel as we discuss why audiences will enjoy improv. “Good improv is like when you have an in-joke with your friends, but you have it on stage”, Matt adds, and that an in-joke is often just between the audience of the night, “you can’t film improv… that feeling you get, is locked in that room with that audience”.
There is a bit of “magic” in ‘Completely Improvised Shakespeare’ and ‘Completely Improvised Potter’, “when you see people on stage who inhabit a whole new world”, says Mel. “One of the beautiful things we get to do is honour the genre… but at the same time mercilessly roast it” continues Mel, “we love Shakespeare… but we also get to tear it apart and poke fun at it”. In respect to the world of Harry Potter, Matt comments, “when you’re in there, it feels safe and warm… everyone here loves that world… we’d stay there… going to Hogwarts”! It takes a lot of “skill and energy” to put these shows together so come along, immerse yourself in the world, and see both shows for some “absolute joy”!
For an evening of Shakespearean fun, check out ‘Completely Improvised Shakespeare’ from 30 March to 23 April 2017 [no Wednesdays] at Trades Hall. For more information and to book tickets, click here!
And if the world of Harry Potter is more your thing, then check out ‘Completely Improvised Potter’ from 30 March to 23 April 2017 [no Wednesdays] at Trades Hall. For more information and to book tickets, click here!
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